Heathrow Expansion Would Be Great News For The South West

Writing in Bristol Post on Friday 11th December 2015, Dr Fox wrote:

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Speaker-s-Corner-Heathrow-expansion-great-news/story-28361911-detail/story.html

TWO weeks ago, Steve Double MP and I, supported by 30 other MPs from the South West of England, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in support of the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Earlier this year the Airports Commission delivered a clear verdict; to maintain our world-class airport and the UK's position as a global hub, expanding Heathrow is the only real option.

Intervening on behalf of a project located over 100 miles from our region may seem unusual, but as the MP for North Somerset and chair of the South West Group of Conservative MPs, my first question for any proposal must always be; "How does this benefit the South West of England?", and the real strength of the Airports Commission's report lies in the economic benefits that an expanded Heathrow will deliver.

Developing the airport will offer our region a £10 billion increase in economic activity, as well as the creation of 12,300 new jobs. This is partially facilitated by the Government's pledge to construct a £500 million rail link connecting the Great Western Mainline directly to Heathrow Terminal 5.

 

This link, which includes a 5km tunnel under the M25, will not only reduce journey times towards from Bristol towards London by half an hour, but it will allow a passenger to board a train at Bristol and travel directly to their terminal. One in four people in Britain will now be within one change of the airport.

The Great Western Mainline link will carry its first passengers in 2020, well before any expansion will be completed. Yet it will have the effect of making Heathrow the "local airport" for South West England, creating jobs and allowing the region to share in the prosperity as Heathrow connects Britain to the global economy.

Heathrow is already the UK's largest port by volume of freight. By expanding capacity, we can ensure that the SMEs in the South West have the ready access to the global export market that allows modern businesses to expand.

In addition to this, Heathrow plans to use its increased capacity to establish regular routes to Bristol, Plymouth and Newquay, establishing a genuine UK hub and allowing visitors to Britain to travel immediately to the South West. Those looking to expand overseas tourism and international trade in the region could hardly wish for a better outcome.

With such an offer on the table, national bodies such as the Institute of Directors and Confederation of British Industry have been joined by regional bodies such as Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, the Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Newquay Cornwall Airport and, this week, the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce in calling for Heathrow to be expanded as soon as possible.

The Airports Commission estimated that more than £200bn could be added to the British economy by expanding Heathrow, and it is clear that this boost will be generated not in the boardrooms of the City, but through the industry of the regions.

This demonstrates why everyone in Britain must involve themselves in this debate. While the benefits to the South West are significant, they are merely representative of the advantages that expanding our most well-connected airport will bring to the entire country.

The Commission is clear in its recommendation of Heathrow over Gatwick. True, both airports are equally convenient from the capital, but London is not a city-state. We must ensure that all corners of Britain are included in this most vital of decisions.

The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox is MP for North Somerset and chair of the South West Conservative MPs Group